I was so happy to see the permission form my elementary school student brought home the other day that announced that the School system is giving her an email account and a cloud storage account that I won’t be able to access or monitor. I even get a free copy of Microsoft i360 to install on the only Windows-based computer in my house that will dutifully try to take over my system and assimilate it into the Microsoft Office Borg Empire. All this free stuff is just amazing. Verily, my cup runneth over, does it not?
It actually doesn’t. I really feel like my schools are trying to screw us again.
Of course one of the first questions that popped into my head was what this “free stuff” actually costs. 90,000 email accounts and the systems to run them aren’t free. Neither are licenses for all those copies of Microsoft Office “lite” or the storage requirements for that quantity of cloud-based storage accounts. If you look at the budget, which has remarkably won “awards” from fraudulent awards-mills such as “Government Finance Officers Association” for excellence in budget presentations and financial reporting, you can’t find any line item that answers this question. Gee, for all that money we paid buying awards for fiscal transparency you think it would be at least possible to find out in a 400+ page budget document how much of our wealth is being diverted into Microsoft’s coffers so the schools can dole out unmonitored email accounts to elementary school children for them to have fun private chats with strangers.
Another question that comes to mind is what the rationale of this exercise might be. Nothing in the handout we got mentions at all any intended educational purpose behind this. There’s no indication that teachers are going to be emailing students using these accounts. My children don’t need to email their parents. They almost certainly have an interest, although no apparent educational need, to email each other. What is the rationale behind establishing cloud storage accounts for elementary school kids? Is there some educational purpose behind making sure elementary school children can share documents, photos and videos with others without having their parents exercise any degree of control, other than possibly opening the door to allowing them an experience with the adult entertainment industry?
This strange decision doesn’t seem to have any educational objective in mind, but is an obvious opportunity for Microsoft to increase their profitability and attempt to build loyalty among younger generations towards their products. That we’re paying some amount of money that the school system isn’t divulging in order to accomplish non-educational objectives of a corporation that earns over $5.9 billion dollars a quarter in profits is utterly ridiculous. At a time when our class sizes are at the state permitted maximum levels, our schools are overcrowded, and teachers forego raises year after year, we’re doling out money to Microsoft so kids can have Microsoft Office accounts?
Last night the schools started their budget discussions with harrowing tales about how we don’t have enough money to find a lot of important core responsibilities. Perhaps if they stopped wasting money making sure 9 year-old sally has the opportunity to email inappropriate pictures to her friends without her parent’s knowledge we might be able to afford to do some of the things we should be doing.
UPDATE: One enterprising reader found out that these Microsoft 360 licenses cost taxpayers in excess of $673,200 this past year, as that was the amount of “savings” the county obtained by some adjustment in the cost of licenses that year. Unless Microsoft is giving these away for free, which is highly unlikely, the costs are far in excess of this figure. A wise investment of scarce taxpayer dollars? You decide.
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